Feminism, unfortunately, seems to be a dirty word to some people. At my school, where people are generally open-minded towards ideas like feminism, being a feminist is a no-brainer and there is a ton of support for that belief.
Christmas break at home, though, was enough to shatter my bubble that kept me thinking the only nay-sayers of feminism were pre-teen boys or grouchy old men on the Internet. Both my parents chuckled and asked things like, “Is it really that bad to be a woman?” “Women aren’t the only ones who need support- what does the term ‘feminism’ do for the disabled?” Other relatives echoed their thoughts. Since then, I’ve heard that even girls my own age don’t see themselves as feminists.
Feminism means believing that women and men are equal and deserve equal rights. If you agree with that, you’re a feminist.
To quote Aziz Ansari: “that’s how words work.” Feminism isn’t just women who burn their bras, or who yell at men who wolf whistle or people who tell rape jokes. It’s men, women, and anyone in between who recognize the inequality of standards that are imposed on women to dress a certain way, who disagree with the patriarchal standards that make it okay for men to objectify women, and who support victims of sexual assault.
I ask my family, and anyone who states, with smugness like they’re some kind of trendy hipster because they don’t buy into the “fad” of feminism, if they support equal rights for all. The typical response is eye rolling, like I must be dumbing it down. But feminism is that simple. It involves many complex things, mostly the end of sexism, but the core of any feminist belief is that everyone deserves equality.
Studies have shown that female college students on average work harder than their male counterparts, are less likely to ask for help from professors, like extensions on paper due dates, and will typically be more involved in extracurricular activities. There is a sense of urgency for women, a desperation to be the best and push yourself as hard as possible, so you have the best chance of earning the money and opportunities you deserve.
I was extremely angry the day I read that women with A’s in school will end up making as much as men with C’s based on the wage gap. I knew the statistic that women make about 76% less than men (white women at least; the number drops for women of color), but seeing it laid out like that is infuriating. The guy slumping in his desk next to me who chose anthropology as a major just because of the trips and probably hasn’t even turned in the paper that was due last week could end up making as much as me in the future. That’s absurd.
Being calm about sexism and “letting it happen” because you need to be a “good girl” and might sound shriek-y or make a fuss just let’s the issues continue. We deserve better.
The women who are against feminism because they enjoy cooking for their family, or being a stay-at-home mother, are missing another key point of feminism- the right of a person to choose what they want to do with their life and have that decision respected and supported.
Yes, it sounds like a word that is female-centric, but women are the ones who have been the most oppressed throughout history.
It doesn’t mean that feminists don’t support a woman’s right to have a career and a family without being seen as selfish, or a man’s right to stay at home and raise his children without being seen as lazy or incompetent. Feminism means supporting rape victims of any gender. It means that same-sex couples deserve the ability to get married. It means that transgender individuals deserve the acceptance and the accommodations they need. Believing in these things means you have an understanding of what humanity is and you are therefore, a feminist.
Anna is a sophomore at Hartwick College, majoring in anthropology and history.